The NY Times throws the CIA a bone

The NY Times has a big story today about the CIA’s interrogation of Abu Zubaydah. Reporter Scott Shane seems to take whatever his intelligence sources tell him at face value and CIA interrogator Duece Martinez comes out looking like the hero who broke the al-Qaida terrorist mastermind:

In the Hollywood cliché of Fox’s “24,” a torturer shouts questions at a bound terrorist while inflicting excruciating pain. The C.I.A. program worked differently. A paramilitary team put on the pressure, using cold temperatures, sleeplessness, pain and fear to force a prisoner to talk. When the prisoner signaled assent, the tormenters stepped aside. After a break that could be a day or even longer, Mr. Martinez or another interrogator took up the questioning.


If officers believed the prisoner was holding out, paramilitary officers who had undergone a crash course in the new techniques, but who generally knew little about Al Qaeda, would move in to manhandle the prisoner. Aware that they were on tenuous legal ground, agency officials at headquarters insisted on approving each new step — a night without sleep, a session of waterboarding, even a “belly slap” — in an exchange of encrypted messages. A doctor or medic was always on hand.

Sounds pretty harmless, right? Then why did the CIA destroy its videotape of Abu Zubaydah’s interrogation? And why no mention of this in the Times story?And why no mention either of what Abu Zubaydah said during a 2007 Gitmo hearing about his “torture:”

Q. In your previous statement, you mentioned specific treatments. Can you describe a little bit more about what those treatments were?A. REDACTEDQ. I understandA. And they not give me a chance all this REDACTEDQ. So I understand, you said things during this treatment you said things to make them stop and then those statements were actually untrue, is that correct?A. Yes

And what about Ron Suskind’s claims in the One Percent Doctrine that Abu Zubaydah was mentally unstable?

Ultimately, we tortured an insane man and ran screaming at every word he uttered.

The Washington Post has written about a debate between the FBI and the CIA over Abu Zubaydah’s value.The Times ran an editor’s note explaining its decision to name Zubaydah’s CIA interrogator (although I wonder whether Deuce is his real name), but the bigger issue is whether Shane and the NY Times are carrying the agency’s water here.Martinez is already being hailed as “the hero you’ve never heard of.”The NY Times did the agency a great service by blurring the program’s harsh edges. Is Shane serving the CIA or his readers?